Before you read today's post, go to Murderati and read Toni McGee Causey's post, about trying to do things in our lives that don't fit our fundamental natures. By the way, if you write, and especially if you write mysteries, you should be tuning into the Murderati blog every day. It's a great group of authors with interesting things to say.
Today, Toni is describing a meeting with her friend who has become a vegan and looks great; Toni wonders if it's just that easy, but in the end decides it's not who she is. Being a vegan doesn't "fit" her.
This started me thinking about characters, on the stage, screen and page, and how we complain when they are not real, not fully dimensional human beings. In other words, they do/say things that don't "fit" them. I struggle in my own writing, between trying to make a character do and say the things I need for the plot and keeping them true to the personality I've given them. I'm afraid, if I take a misstep, readers will call me on it. Mean readers.
This is possibly why Peri is 50 years old and not 30. In my youth, I tried on a lot of things that didn't fit me - scuba diving, skiing, marriages to the wrong men. By my late forties, I was finally wise enough to decline suggestions to go skydiving and river rafting, because I knew what I liked, and neither tossing myself from an airplane nor being tossed into white water did it for me. At 50, Peri knows what fits her. She likes running and old movies and her independence… although life does intervene to make her question her choices.
By juxtaposition, I'd like you to take a look at a book I just read, The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron. I don't normally read romances, but not only is DeAnna a friend of mine, the cover and jacket blurb was so intriguing that I had to have a copy. Her protagonist is a young girl, a new wife, who is desperate to join the elite Victorian society of Chicago. But what she thinks she wants doesn't fit her. I liked the story, even when I wanted to shake Dora by the shoulders and tell her to stay away from those awful society women. The story rings true, even while the character is being false (to herself). BTW, good job, DeAnna!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you prefer a main character who is still trying to figure out what they want in life and is tossed about by the storyline, or do you want your protagonist to be the stable one in the story, the person you can count on when everything else seems to be falling apart?
Perhaps some of you can even extend this discussion on your own blogs… we'll make a chain post!